Thursday, June 30, 2011

Halfway To Sanity: First Half Recap

The Mets lost to the Detroit Tigers today by the score of 5-2, ending their four-game winning streak, a streak that pushed them over .500 for the first time since the fifth game of the season. With today's loss, the Mets dropped to 41-40 at the midway point of the season.

While some people expected the Mets to be right around the .500 mark, including yours truly, the fact that they've achieved their record without Johan Santana throwing a single pitch and with their corner infielders and leading power hitters (David Wright, Ike Davis) disabled for a good chunk of the first half is all the more Amazin'.

Now that the Mets have reached the 81-game plateau, let's look back at the first half and dig up some interesting stats on your fav'rit men in blue and orange.

By pitching the final inning of today's loss, Francisco Rodriguez reached the season's midway point with 30 games finished, putting him on pace for 60 such games, or five above the 55 needed for his contract to vest for 2012. Even if K-Rod doesn't get traded to another team, he might have difficulty reaching 55 games finished, and it might be his own fault. Here are his stats before and after his team's 81st game over the past few seasons:

  • 2010: First half - 1.99 ERA; Second half - spent most of it either disabled or in handcuffs.
  • 2009: First half - 1.59 ERA; Second half - 6.67 ERA.
  • 2008: First half - 1.88 ERA; Second half - 2.70 ERA.
  • 2007: First half - 2.27 ERA; Second half - 3.41 ERA.

Historically, Frankie Rodriguez has performed extremely well in the first half of the season, only to come back to Earth in the second half. If 2011 becomes his fifth consecutive season with a sluggish second half, he might be taken out of games he would normally finish, due to a rough outing or twelve. So far this season, he has finished 30 of the 38 games in which he has appeared.

Jose Reyes. What else can we say about him that hasn't already been said ad nauseum? After today's 2-for-3 performance, his batting average is up to a lofty .352, with an on-base percentage hovering around .400. He leads or is among the league leaders in batting average, hits, multi-hit games, runs scored, doubles, triples and stolen bases. But there might be some things you didn't know about his historical season.

Did you know that Reyes is also the toughest player to strike out in the National League, fanning 26 times in 374 plate appearances? Did you know that Reyes is sixth in the National League in slugging percentage (.529), despite having only three home runs? Did you know that Reyes has more triples (15) than eight National League teams do? (For the record, here are the other teams and their total number of triples: St. Louis (13), Los Angeles (12), Florida (11), San Francisco (11), Washington (11), Pittsburgh (10), Cincinnati (9), Atlanta (6).)

For our final stat, let's look at the team as a whole and compare them to the Philadelphia Phillies. No one will confuse the Mets for the Phillies, the team with the best record in the National League and one of the favorites to represent the NL in the World Series. However, statistically speaking, the Mets are better than the Phillies in a number of unexpected categories.

The Mets are "up top" in many offensive categories that the Phillies used to dominate.

The Mets are second in the National League in batting average (.264). Where are the Phillies? All the way down at No. 10 with a .246 average.

For all the great sluggers the Phillies have, it is the Mets who have the higher slugging percentage (.388), while the Phillies are 11th in the league with their .375 mark.

The Phillies have a number of players who might receive an intentional walk or two. However, it is the Mets and their singles-hitting lineup who lead the National League in walks, drawing 293 free passes over their first 81 games. The Phillies have 272 in the same amount of games.

As expected, the Phillies have more home runs than the Mets, leading New York in that category, 67-52. But for all those balls leaving the yard, it is the Mets who have crossed the plate more often, and it's not even close. The Mets have outscored Philadelphia over their first 81 games, 369-327, showing that small ball can be just as effective in the run-scoring process as looking for the three-run homer.

Alas, despite the unexpected offensive superiority of the Mets over the Phillies, they still trail Philadelphia by 9½ games in the NL East. Why is that? Well, the Phillies happen to lead the major leagues with a 2.98 ERA, while the Mets are near the bottom of the league with their 4.06 ERA through 81 games. As the old saying goes, pitching wins championships. It also does a good job of hiding the fact that the Phillies are a very flawed team offensively, while negating many of the fine hitting performances by the Mets.

As much as it pains me to say it, the Mets' pitchers have to bow down in front of the great Phillies' staff.

If the Mets are going to compete for the a playoff spot in the second half, they'll need to improve their pitching. Their starters have been decent, for the most part, but decent equals mediocre. They'll need to step it up on the mound if they're going to go far enough above .500 so that they don't even see it in their rearview mirror. And if they can do that, they'll also lose sight of various National League teams in the rearview mirror as well.

The second half of the season will be very interesting indeed. The team that finishes the second half might not be the same team that begins it tomorrow against the Yankees at Citi Field. David Wright, Ike Davis and Johan Santana may or may not be back in the second half (let's cross our fingers and hope for "may" instead of "may not"), but at the same time, players like Carlos Beltran and Frankie Rodriguez might be trying to help another team get into the postseason.

To paraphrase one-time Mets' nemesis, Joaquin Andujar, the baseball season can be summed up with one word, and that word is "you never know". With the 2011 Mets, you never know which team is going to show up. Will they be the team that scored 52 runs in four games or will they be the team that mysteriously forgot how to use their home field to their advantage?

You never know with these Mets. That's why they're so much fun to watch.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Texas Two-Step (Part II): Joey Does Dallas

Howdy y'all! This is your fav'rit Studious Metsimus blogger/culinary expert Joey Beartran, reporting for duty. In today's episode, I will recap my just-completed trip to Texas to see the Mets play the Rangers, where our boys in blue and orange took two out of three from the defending American League champions.

As a respected blogger, I expected the Rangers to roll out the red carpet for me upon my arrival in Arlington. I got nothing. No red carpet. Not even a wet towel to combat the oppressive triple digit temperatures. I wasn't even allowed in the press room because they didn't believe me when I said I accidentally lost my media credentials somewhere between our trip to In-N-Out Burger and Sonic. (I must have confused it for a napkin.) The closest I got to the press room was the Media Only sign outside the ballpark.

So I had to sit in the ballpark with the fans. No big deal. I could handle not being in an air-conditioned press box. Plus, it would give me the opportunity to walk around the stadium and try out the ballpark fare at their concession stands.

My first stop was at the bacon dog stand. You read that right. It's a stand that sells hot dogs wrapped in bacon. Unfortunately, I was disappointed with what I expected to be a Texas delicacy. I mean, I like bacon and I like hot dogs. Then again, I like chicken nachos and I like cannolis, but I wouldn't eat them together. That's what the bacon dogs were like. Two fine meats in and of themselves, but one big disappointment when combined on a bun.

Such a promising concept, but I wish it had been bacon AND a hot dog instead on bacon ON a hot dog.

By the time I had donated the rest of my bacon dog to the pigeon that had that "I'm going to poop on you if you don't share your meal with me" look in its eyes, the Mets had already taken a 3-0 lead on the Rangers. Considering the Mets had only scored one run in the opener of the series, putting up a three-spot in the first inning gave me hope that this game would be different.

I was all set to watch Jon Niese take the mound in the bottom of the first inning to protect the lead his teammates had provided for him when something unexpected happened. Something grabbed my attention and wouldn't let it go, no matter how intent I was on watching the game.

It was the nacho stand.

Can you get burritos at Citi Field? I think not!

This was Tex-Mex heaven! In addition to quesadillas and fajita salads, you could also build your own burrito. The vendors handed out a piece of paper, which the patron would fill out detailing exactly what ingredients were to be added to their burrito, salad, nachos, etc.

Of course, I had to try their chicken taco salad in a crispy tortilla bowl. This was not the bacon dog. This was bliss in a bowl. My sister, Iggy, who also made the trip to Texas, shared the salad (and souvenir soda) with me. After eating it, we wished we had ordered one for each of us. It was that good!

What was in our chicken taco salad? The better question might be, what WASN'T in it? Yum!

After consuming the salad, we made our way back to our seats, at which time we noticed that the Mets now had a 6-0 lead. Jonathon Niese, who was unaccustomed to the excessive temperatures, was cruising, while his mound opponent, Alexi Ogando, (7-2, 2.66 ERA and a leading candidate for American League Rookie of the Year) wilted in the Texas heat.

The Mets failed to score in the fourth and fifth frames, so I thought it would be a good time to check out other aspects of the ballpark. We checked out the Mets' bullpen (see first photo below), the seats behind home plate (see middle photo below) and know...

After our break with the garlic fries, we walked over to the center field area, where we noticed a giant statue of a man tipping his cap. Upon further inspection, we noticed that it was a statue dedicated to the only Texas Ranger player to have his number retired by the team, Nolan Ryan. (Former manager Johnny Oates is the only other former Ranger to have his number retired, despite the fact that Bobby Valentine is the all-time winningest manager in Ranger history. Yes, the same Bobby Valentine that managed the Mets to the World Series in 2000.)

Of course, as a Mets fan who was born at Shea Stadium, (okay, so technically I was purchased by my colleague in the Mets Team Store behind home plate at Shea in 2004, but for argument's sake, let's just say I was "born" there, ya dig?) I noticed the similarities between the Rangers and the Mets with regards to retired numbers. Both teams have retired only one player's number (Seaver's No. 41 for New York and Ryan's No. 34 for Texas), both teams have retired the number of the manager who led them to their first division title (Hodges' No. 14 for the Mets and Oates' No. 26 for the Rangers) and both have failed to bestow the same honor to Bobby Valentine.

While I was pondering those similarities, I noticed that Iggy had climbed onto Nolan Ryan's glove, so before any Rangers fans could cry sacrilege, I followed her in an effort to get her to come down. Of course, a roving photographer caught us on his glove and snapped the photo below.

Even in the middle of Texas, the paparazzi never rests.

Needless to say, we needed a place to hide before a lynch mob treated us like Frankenstein's monster for sitting on their beloved Nolan Ryan's statue. We tried to get into the Mets' bullpen, but were turned aside. We tried going back to the Tex-Mex stand, but there were too many people standing in line who might recognize us.

It got to the point where we thought everyone was after us. Every Rangers fan on their cell phone appeared to be calling the police in our minds. If I'm not mistaken, I think I overheard one of the fans talking about calling Chuck Norris so he could arrest us, before a fellow fan reminded him that Norris wasn't a real lawman. He only played one on TV.

Chuck Norris Fact: His badge will be retired alongside Nolan Ryan and Johnny Oates' number.

Running out of places to hide, we tried one last time to get into the press box. We circled the area on the second level behind home plate when we were spotted. Fortunately, it wasn't El Rangerdoro (a Lucha Libre wrestler who didn't take kindly to Mets fans on his turf) doing the spotting. A hand reached out from up above and we heard a familiar voice who offered to bring us into the Mets' radio booth, where we'd be safe from television-obsessed fans and masked wrestlers. Who was this kind soul who shielded us in our time of need?

It was none other than longtime Mets' radio play-by-play man, Howie Rose.

Thank you, Howie! You saved us from angry Rangers fans and finally got us into the broadcast booth!

Right after the save by Howie Rose, everything turned for the better. The Mets scored eight more times (finishing the game with a season-high 14 runs) and we were able to escape with a victory and our lives.

We did not attend the final game of the series the following afternoon, an 8-5 victory by the Mets. Our Studious Metsimus colleague will say it was because we had to take a flight home, but if you saw the reactions of El Rangerdoro and the other members of the Church of Nolan Ryan after we sat on their savior's statue, you'd want to get out of Dodge as soon as possible, too.

Our stay in the Dallas area was memorable for many reasons. It was memorable for the variety of food we sampled. (Bacon dogs - bleccchhh, garlic fries - acceptable, chicken taco salad - nom nom nom!) It was memorable for all the crooked numbers the Mets put up on the scoreboard in taking the series from the Rangers. And it was memorable because we went to Texas and became outlaws for a day, even though that wasn't part of the original plan.

I am glad we're back home, though. After all, I don't think Iggy and I were going to fool native Texans much longer with the disguises we put on in order to blend in with the crowd. Well, maybe we could have fooled that Chuck Norris fan...

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Texas Two-Step (Part I): Coop & Ed's Tex-cellent Adventure

Last year, the cast and crew of Studious Metsimus embarked on a world tour. No, we didn't tour with Weezer (although that would be super-sweet). Instead, we toured the country following the Mets to different ballparks. We attended games at Camden Yards (Baltimore), Nationals Park (Washington), AT&T Park (San Francisco) and PNC Park (Pittsburgh), cheering for the Mets every step of the way. (We also ventured to Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, but that city doesn't need to be linked out to here.)

This year, we decided to pack our bags and take a trip to Texas. Who's "we"? Why, it's yours truly, along with correspondent Taryn (Coop) Cooper, culinary expert/investigative reporter Joey Beartran and his sister, Iggy. (Joey and Iggy's report will be featured in a separate piece.)

We followed the Mets to Texas, where we were told everything is bigger. Apparently, that statement was spot on, as our smiles and Mets' pride were never bigger than they were in Arlington.

Photo by Sharon Chapman, who joined us in Texas with her family. Thanks, Sharon!

Scheduling (and this thing called a "day job") prevented us from attending the finale of the three-game series between the Mets and the Rangers, but we were able to go to the first two games. We can skip over the first game, which was another off-day for Mike Pelfrey and the bullpen. Then again, the final result (an 8-1 loss by the Mets) was nothing new for Big Pelf, as his road woes are no longer a secret.

So let's move on to the middle game of the series. After the first loss, the Mets had sunk to two games under .500 for the millionth time this season. But Jonathon Niese was on the mound for the Mets against the Rangers. Unlike Pelfrey, Niese has had more success on the road (10-7) than at home (8-11) and it showed. Then again, even Victor Zambrano could have won the game with the fireworks supplied by the Mets' bats.

Who needs the long ball? Chicks dig singles as well.

The Mets pounded out 17 hits, with nary a home run in sight, en route to a 14-5 thrashing of the Rangers. The 14 runs represented a season-high for the Mets, who desperately needed a game in which the bullpen was either not used or used in a less stressful environment.

Unfortunately, with Jonathon Niese succumbing to the heat, it was up to Bobby Parnell and DJ Carrasco to finish the game. Jason Isringhausen was not called upon because he was too busy playing with his big red ball and Manny Acosta was on bathroom security duty (see photos below).

While we are the game in our Mets gear, we were actually heckled by four Rangers fans. That's right, not everyone in Texas is polite. The first three fans apparently got together before the game because all they could come up with was "BOOOOO" as we walked by.

The fourth fan was a little more original with his insult, as he showed his extensive knowledge of pronouns with his "BOO YOU" epithet. Then again, perhaps he wasn't being derisive to us at all and was just stating the college he was attending. (BOO U, anyone?)

We did have to give credit to one Rangers fan who actually was quite creative in expressing his love for his team, dressing as a masked Lucha Libre fighter called "El Rangerdoro". He posed for some photos with us, where he showed off his signature "chokehold while wearing batting gloves" move and his ability to point at the camera. (For those of you who still thinking wrestling is real, I regret to inform you that the pointing was indeed choreographed.)

Although we couldn't attend the final game of the series, we did go out to the ballpark that morning to take some exterior shots of the ballpark and its surroundings. We didn't run into any players entering the stadium, but we did run into long-time Mets' PR dude, Jay Horwitz. (I assure you he's in one of the photos below.)

To recap our trip to Texas...

It was hot. No, seriously. Just look at that wet stain on my Mets T-shirt in the collage of photos above. That didn't come from the guy who attended BOO U.

Jon Niese did wonderfully in his start, despite sweating through his uniform (perhaps nervous that El Rangerdoro was waiting for him outside the visitors' clubhouse).

Manny Acosta might have a new job in sanitation soon if he continues to give up runs at an alarming rate.

Arlington has a really great ballpark. No joke needed there. It's just a really sweet park.

From the tributes to Nolan Ryan (including the large statue in center field of the Ryan Express doffing his cap) to the frequent fireworks (not all of them came from the Mets' bats), our ballpark experience was one to remember. It was indeed (dare I say it) a Tex-cellent adventure!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Mets vs. A's: An Important Series Then, An Important Series Now

In 1973, the Mets and the A's squared off in the World Series, with the Mets winning three of the first five games before losing Games 6 and 7. (Dang you, Yogi Berra, for not starting well-rested George Stone in Game 6 and holding Tom Seaver on regular rest for Game 7.) The two teams did not meet again until interleague play made it possible in 2005. At the time, the A's were the only team the Mets had never faced in the regular season.

The Mets lost the first two games in Oakland before Mr. Anna Benson won the series finale to avoid getting swept by the Athletics. At the time of the series, the Mets were hovering around .500 while the A's were a miserable 25-37.

Two years later, the Mets and A's played their first and only regular season series at Shea Stadium, with the Mets sweeping the series in dominant fashion, outscoring Oakland in the three games by a combined 20-3 score. At the time, the Mets were struggling, having lost 13 of 16 and the A's were treading water in the AL West.

Tonight, the Mets open up the first-ever series against Oakland at Citi Field, with New York once again defining mediocrity and the A's keeping up with them in standings (The Mets are 35-37, while the A's are 33-40). However, this year, it is the team from the East Bay that is hot (winners of five straight, including a three-game sweep over the World Champion Giants), while the team from Flushing Bay is not (losing three of their last four).

The Mets must take advantage of the Athletics' poor play on the road. Oakland is 14-24 away from their newly-renamed Coliseum. However, the Mets haven't exactly been believing in home-field advantage themselves, going 16-19 at Citi Field after finishing with a 47-34 home record in 2010.

With the Mets playing 13 of their next 16 games away from Citi Field following their three-game set with the A's, it is imperative that they do well in this series. Not only will it give them momentum going into their upcoming interleague series against the Rangers and Tigers, but it could finally push them above the elusive .500 mark, which has only been a rumor since they last found themselves above the break-even point during the first week of the season when they were 3-2.

The Mets may or may not keep Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran at the trade deadline. Little Jeffy Wilpon has said that their standing in the playoff hunt could determine whether or not they add payroll at the trade deadline. After losing two out of three to the struggling Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim near Disneyland in Orange County over the weekend, the Mets have looked more like pretenders than contenders.

The future of the team is at stake over the next six weeks. Doing well against last-place Oakland at Citi Field is the first step towards determining what will happen to the team after the trade deadline. The Mets believed in 1973 and took that belief all the way to the World Series, where they lost to Oakland. The Mets can't lose to the A's this time. It's not the Fall Classic, but it might be just as important for the franchise to come out on top in this series.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Mike Pelfrey: Standing Tall At Home

Look at the photo to the left. That was the linescore from last night's game, a complete game victory by Mike Pelfrey in which Big Pelf was voted co-player of the game with Carlos Beltran (who hit a monster two-run homer that was estimated at 460 feet).

It was the first complete game of the season for a Mets pitcher and the first by Pelfrey since 2008, when he pitched all nine innings in back-to-back starts on August 20 and August 25. What do those games in 2008 and last night's game have in common? All three efforts came at home. In fact, over his career, Big Pelf has stood quite tall at home, while wilting on the road.

Since coming up to the Mets in 2006, Mike Pelfrey has made 128 starts, going 47-46 with a 4.35 ERA, numbers that suggest a mediocre pitcher. However, his home/road splits suggest that Pelfrey is a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde type pitcher, as he performs surgery in his home uniform, but hides his talent in his road grays.

In 71 career home starts, Big Pelf is 29-21 (.580 winning percentage) with a 3.53 ERA. At Shea Stadium and Citi Field, he has given up fewer hits than innings pitched (446 hits in 450.2 innings) and has allowed only 24 home runs. The road is an entirely different story.

Mike Pelfrey has made 57 starts on the road. In those games, Pelfrey is 18-25 with a whopping 5.50 ERA. He has given up 392 hits in 322.1 innings and has allowed 38 home runs. Opposing batters hit .307 against him on the road, as opposed to .260 at home.

The home/road disparity has been more pronounced this year, as Pelfrey is undefeated at home (3-0) with a 2.96 ERA and 1.09 WHIP. Opponents hit .220 against him at Citi Field and he has allowed four home runs in 48.2 innings. On the road, Pelfrey becomes Little Pelf, going 1-5 with a 6.75 ERA and 1.52 WHIP, allowing a .308 batting average and nine home runs in 41.1 innings.

Pelfrey's home/road splits are reminiscent of John Maine, the former Met right-hander who finished his career in New York with a 39-32 record and a 4.17 ERA. However, Maine was 22-14 with a 3.61 ERA at Shea Stadium/Citi Field and 17-18 on the road with an ERA a shade under 5.00.

Mike Pelfrey was regarded as a top prospect when he was first called up to the Mets in 2006. But while he has shown flashes of brilliance (13-11, 3.72 ERA in 2008, 15-9, 3.66 ERA in 2010), he has never been able to sustain that brilliance for an entire season's worth of games.

Pelfrey is the dictionary definition of a streaky pitcher. When he's hot, he's unhittable (see April 2010). When he's not, he makes fans wonder why he's still on the team (see April 2011).

If Mike Pelfrey is ever going to become a true ace (not the de facto ace because the team's true ace is out until who knows when), he must be able to translate his brilliance at home into road success. He can't forget to pack his talent in his suitcase when he's about to board a plane to another city. To be fully successful, a pitcher has to be consistently good all of the time. If a pitcher like Mike Pelfrey is going to be a success half of the time, then he's going to be the first syllable of the word "success" the other half.

Mike Pelfrey is better than that. He just has to stand tall on the road to fully realize his potential.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Road More Traveled

Since crossing the parking lot from Shea Stadium to Citi Field in 2009, the Mets have been a respectable team at home, going 88-74 over their first two full seasons at Ebbets Field Jr. (41-40 in 2009, 47-34 in 2010). However, their play on the road has left a little to be desired.

Okay, let's be honest. It's left A LOT to be desired. In 2009, the Mets were a miserable 29-52 away from home and "improved" to 32-49 on the road in 2010; a combined 61-101 over the two seasons.

Last year, the Mets did not win a series on the road until mid-June, when they swept the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards. They didn't take a road series against a National League team until August, when they took two out of three from the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. In all, the Mets won a total of four series on the road last year, making them one of the worst road teams in baseball.

But with the advent of Terryball in 2011, the road pendulum has begun to shift in the Mets' favor. After taking the first two games against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field, the Mets are now 19-17 away from home in 2011. Last year, the Mets didn't record their 19th road victory until they defeated the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on July 18, in the fourth game after the All-Star Break. In 2009, they waited until the fifth game after the All-Star Break to win their 19th game on the road.

Over the past two seasons, the Mets were constantly answering questions as to when they were going to put it all together on the road. Although no one would admit it, their road woes had to put a tremendous weight on their shoulders, causing the players to try to do too much when they were wearing their road grays.

The road is no longer full of emptiness and moral victories for the Mets. Now it's all about the "W".

This year, no one is being asked such questions. The Mets are playing well on the road and it's showing in the standings, as the team currently stands in third place in the NL East with a 34-34 record. They also remain within striking distance of the Wild Card lead and can move closer with a victory in tonight's series finale against the Braves.

Why are the Mets doing so much better on the road this year than in the two previous seasons? Is it because they're trotting out so many young players who have no experience with late-season collapses and road difficulties? Is it because the new manager won't allow them to dwell on a tough loss? One thing's for certain. The 2011 Mets may not the best team in baseball, but they've proven that they're not afraid to compete against the best. They've played well against the better teams in the league and have not been intimidated by the challenge they impose. When they play in front of hostile crowds on the road, they focus on the game in front of them, not the voices in the crowd.

Over the past two seasons, the Mets' adversity has been their performance on the road. But winning teams can overcome any adversity. With a victory tonight on the road against the Braves, the Mets will become a winning team, moving above .500 for the first time since the opening week of the season. It may have taken them three seasons, but the Mets are finally unafraid to play on the road. Who says you can't go (away from) home again?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Is Terry Collins 2011's Answer To Bobby Valentine?

Prior to the 2011 season, the Mets interviewed a number of potential candidates for their open managerial position before deciding to hire Terry Collins, a pick that was popular in the front office, but not immediately liked by the fans. Less than half a season later, Collins has made believers out of the skeptics who thought anyone not named Wally Backman would be able to manage the Mets. After a rough 5-13 start, the Mets have responded by going 28-21 (.571 winning percentage) and currently find themselves in third place in the National League East.

Collins has been able to piece together a team that has been without Johan Santana for the entire season and sans corner infielders Ike Davis and David Wright for the past month. His makeshift lineups have led to the emergence of various players who had been career minor leaguers or fringe players. Players such as Justin Turner, Ruben Tejada and Daniel Murphy have all contributed in the absence of Davis and Wright, and pitchers such as Dillon Gee, Chris Capuano and Jonathon Niese have all flourished while Santana has been rehabbing his surgically repaired shoulder.

The 2011 Mets have all the makings of a nice story in Flushing, after two lost seasons at Citi Field which immediately followed two heartbreaking seasons at Shea Stadium. But this is not the first time a manager has taken a downtrodden Mets team and turned them around faster than anyone ever expected. In fact, it was only 14 years ago when another former major league manager was given a chance by the Mets to bring respectability back to the franchise.

Still beloved by Mets fans, Bobby Valentine was the club's second winningest manager after Davey Johnson.

Bobby Valentine managed the Texas Rangers from 1985-1992, where he became the franchise's all-time leader in managerial victories. But after a slow start in 1992, Valentine was relieved of his duties by future president George W. Bush and did not manage again for three years. In 1995, Bobby V took his managerial talents overseas and led the Chiba Lotte Marines to a surprising second-place finish in the Japanese Pacific League. Valentine's success in Japan (he was fired due to a conflict with the team's general manager) led him back to the States and a job managing the Mets' Triple-A team in Norfolk.

After leading the Tides to an 82-59 record in 1996, Valentine was promoted to the Mets to replace the recently ousted Dallas Green. The Mets finished the season by winning only 12 of the 31 games under their new skipper. However, with a new season came new hope, and Valentine was the purveyor of that hope.

The 1997 Mets went into the season with little to no expectations. Their biggest acquisition of the offseason was John Olerud, a former batting champion in 1993 who had done little since winning that batting title, averaging 13 HR and 61 RBI from 1994 to 1996, and failing to hit over .300 in each of those three seasons. The rest of the infield consisted of the past-his-prime Carlos Baerga at second, light-hitting shortstop Rey Ordoñez and young Edgardo Alfonzo, who had been shuttled back and forth between second and third base for the better part of three seasons.

Although Bernard Gilkey and Lance Johnson were returning to the outfield, both were coming off career years in 1996 that did little to help the team in the standings. Rounding out the outfield was Butch Huskey, who had always shown power potential, but never quite fulfilled it. Todd Hundley (he of the record-setting 41 home runs in 1996) was yet again behind the plate catching a ragtag group of starting pitchers that included Bobby Jones, Rick Reed, Dave Mlicki, Mark Clark, Armando Reynoso and Brian Bohanon. Those six pitchers combined to win a mere 40 games in 1996 and were now being counted on to lead the 1997 Mets. It didn't start off the way Valentine would have liked.

The 1997 Mets lost 10 of their first 14 games and were already seven games out of first place just two weeks into the season. But Bobby Valentine did not let the poor start deter his team. By mid-May, the Mets had climbed back to .500, but then hovered around the mediocre mark until mid-June. It was then that the team took off, winning six straight against Pittsburgh and Atlanta. By September, the Mets were still alive in the Wild Card race, but their playoff hopes finally burst during the final week of the season, as the Marlins took the Wild Card on the way to their first World Series championship. Despite falling just short of the playoffs, the Mets still finished the year with an impressive 88-74 record.

Bobby Jones and Rick Reed emerged as solid starting pitchers for the Mets, with Jones winning 15 games and earning his first (and only) All-Star selection and Reed finishing sixth in the National League with a 2.89 ERA, to go along with 13 wins (after winning a total of 10 games from 1988-1996). The infield also surpassed all expectations, with John Olerud leading the way. The first baseman batted .294 with 22 HR and 102 RBI. He also led the team in on-base percentage with an even .400 mark. The left side of the infield impressed as well, as Edgardo Alfonzo hit a then-career high .315 and Rey Ordoñez won his first Gold Glove Award. Bernard Gilkey and Lance Johnson couldn't sustain their 1996 paces, but Butch Huskey made up for that by setting career marks in batting average (.287), hits (135), doubles (26), home runs (24), RBI (81), stolen bases (8) and slugging percentage (.503). In addition, Todd Hundley followed up his memorable 1996 campaign with another solid season, batting .273 with 30 HR and 86 RBI.

No one would say that the 1997 Mets were loaded with All-Stars. But Bobby Valentine took that group of individuals and turned them into a team. Valentine used 143 different lineups, utilizing all 25 players on the roster and going with the hot hand whenever possible. The final result was the first winning season for the Mets in seven years.

Fast forward to 2011. Terry Collins is now the former major league manager who was hired by the Mets after a layoff of several years. After spending time guiding young players in the Mets' farm system in 2010, Collins is now managing a number of them in the big leagues.

Not much was expected from the Mets in 2011, but after a slow start, the Mets are now playing very good baseball. They're coming together as a team, with veteran leadership (Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes), emerging talent (Justin Turner, Ruben Tejada, Daniel Murphy), and young pitchers developing into top starters (Jonathon Niese, Dillon Gee).

Like Bobby Valentine did with the 1997 Mets, Terry Collins is instilling confidence in the 2011 Mets. His goal is not to reach .500, but to surpass it. Mediocrity is not an option with the current Mets. It is a stepping stone. Terry Collins expects this team to perform on the field, regardless of who he puts out there. It is why the Mets have been able to leapfrog past the Nationals and Marlins in the NL East and why they are within 4½ games of the Braves for the Wild Card lead.

Bobby Valentine did wonders with a group of players that "on paper" shouldn't have performed as well as they did. He taught them how to believe in themselves and their ability to get the job on the baseball field. The players responded to their manager and made the fans believers as well. Fourteen years later, Terry Collins is trying to do the same thing with his group of Mets.

Will Collins succeed as Bobby Valentine did almost a decade and a half ago? That remains to be seen. One thing is certain, though. If the players continue to follow Collins' philosophy, then there's no reason to believe that this team can't surpass expectations. The Mets can go as far as they want to go. It's a good thing they have a manager who knows this and is willing to take them there.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Carlos Beltran Campaigns For Jose Reyes' Return

According to Mike Puma in today's New York Post, Carlos Beltran has expressed his desire to see Jose Reyes in a Mets uniform in 2012 and beyond.

After the Mets scorched the Pirates for seven runs over the final three innings of yesterday's 7-0 victory, Beltran had this to say about the front office and his teammate:

"They should make the effort and try to sign him, for sure. He grew up in this organization. I don't know what's in his mind, but players like him, they don't come too often. He's had nothing wrong with him. He's playing the game and having fun every day, so you want to have a player like that."

Carlos Beltran has always been a quiet leader on this team. His words are few and far in between, but when he says them, they're meant for people to listen. Beltran has been in the league for many years and knows a good player when he sees one. But Jose Reyes is more than just a good player. He's a great player, the type of player you build a team around, the type of player you win with.

Although Carlos Beltran might not be patrolling the outfield at Citi Field next season, he knows that the Mets shouldn't part with Reyes. Supposedly, Jose Reyes' agents have not been contacted by Sandy Alderson as of this time. It would behoove the Mets' GM to begin the conversation with Team Reyes soon. Any time wasted is time ticking away towards Reyes' departure from the only organization he's ever known.

Alderson might shy away from long-term deals, but we're not talking about D.J. Carrasco and R.A. Dickey here, who both got two-year contracts during the off-season. This is Jose Reyes, the "real" face of the franchise. (Sorry, David Wright, but this team is winning right now without you. The same would not be the case if Jose Reyes were on the DL.)

Carlos Beltran can see it. I can see it. Heck, Stevie Wonder could probably see it. Hopefully, the Mets' front office will see it as well. Jose Reyes should be a Met in 2012 and beyond.

Tom Seaver will always be known as "The Franchise". But Jose Reyes is "The Franchise" for a new generation of Mets fans. If the front office truly wants to do what's best for the team, they must re-sign the new version of "The Franchise". The Mets already had a dark time from 1977-1983 after Tom Seaver was let go. Re-signing Jose Reyes would ensure that the light of hope will continue to flicker at Citi Field for many years to come.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Seaver, Koosman, Gooden...What About Gee?

Last night, the Mets defeated the Pirates, 8-1. Dillon Gee pitched a strong eight innings, allowing one run on eight hits, walking none and striking out five. The rookie right-hander improved to 7-0 with the victory and the Mets improved to 9-0 in his nine starts. It has been well-documented that Gee is the first Mets pitcher to begin his first full season in the majors by winning his first six decisions (now seven), but should this strong start earn him a trip to Arizona for the All-Star Game?

The Mets have only sent three starting pitchers to the Midsummer Classic in their history. Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman were bestowed that honor in 1967 and 1968, respectively, while Dwight Gooden became the last Met rookie to pitch in an All-Star Game when he pitched two scoreless innings in 1984.

As of today, Gee is leading the National League in winning percentage (1.000), is tied for sixth in wins (7), ninth in WHIP (1.097), and ranks just outside the top ten with a 3.05 ERA (Arizona's Ian Kennedy is 10th with a 3.01 ERA). Gee is also holding opposing batters to a .215 batting average, .293 on-base percentage and .309 slugging percentage.

Gee's numbers appear to make him a lock to make the final cut. However, last season Mike Pelfrey was 10-2 with a 2.71 ERA through games of June 25 and did not make the All-Star team, so Gee's inclusion on the this year's team is not guaranteed.

Whether he represents the National League in Arizona or not, Dillon Gee has pitched like an All-Star for the Mets, surpassing all expectations for a player who began the season at AAA-Buffalo. He's been their most consistent and valuable pitcher over the first two months of the season, keeping the Mets around the .500 mark longer than most "experts" predicted. As mentioned before, the Mets are 9-0 in Gee's starts. When another starter takes the mound, the Mets are 22-32.

Tom Seaver. Jerry Koosman. Dwight Gooden. They are the three winningest pitchers in franchise history. They're also the only three rookie pitchers to appear for the Mets in an All-Star Game. Dillon Gee has a chance to become the fourth member of this exclusive club. That would be quite an accomplishment for a pitcher who expected to be in Buffalo this summer, but instead might be going to Arizona.

Friday, June 10, 2011

8 Since 7 Played 1

Eight years ago today, the Mets were playing the Texas Rangers in an interleague game. The Mets fell short in that game, losing by the final score of 9-7. It was just another game on the schedule for the Mets, who were on their way to a 66-95 season under first-year manager Art Howe. But one significant thing did happen on June 10, 2003, for that was the day Jose Reyes made his debut for the New York Mets.

On the day before his 20th birthday, Reyes became the first teenager since Dwight Gooden in 1984 to take the field for the Mets. The charismatic shortstop was one of the top prospects in the Mets’ minor league system and was called up to replace Rey Sanchez, who was placed on the disabled list with a thumb injury. Although Reyes started his career with a bang (he hit a grand slam for his first major league homer five days after his debut), injuries sidelined him over his first two seasons in the big leagues. His second season with the Mets (2004) saw Reyes move to second base to accommodate Kaz Matsui, who never lived up to expectations after signing a three-year deal to become the team’s new shortstop.

Finally, in 2005, Jose Reyes stayed healthy for the first time. He moved back to shortstop, displacing the oft-booed Matsui, who moved over to second base. Reyes played in all but one game that season, hitting .273, while banging out 190 hits. He also led the National League with 60 stolen bases, becoming only the second Met to steal as many as 60 bases in a season (Roger Cedeño stole 66 bases in 1999). Reyes’ run of excellence and good health continued over the next three years, when he stole an average of 66 bases per season, including a franchise-record 78 in 2007. He also added power to his game, racking up extra-base hit after extra-base hit. From 2006-2008, Reyes hit 103 doubles, 48 triples and 47 home runs.

Then the injury bug victimized Reyes again, as he was limited to 36 games in 2009. Reyes did come back to play in 133 games in 2010, but without a strong supporting cast around him, his play suffered. He finished the season with 83 runs scored, 10 triples and 30 stolen bases, all of which were career-lows for a season in which he played at least 100 games.

Now comes 2011, a year in which Reyes once again has had to play without a strong supporting cast. Last year, he couldn't rise to the occasion (although in his defense, an assortment of minor injuries did slow him down a bit). This year, he's surpassed all expectations and is carrying the team with him. Through the Mets' first 62 games, Reyes has already surpassed last season's total for triples. His 11 three-baggers lead the majors, and he also ranks at or near the top of the league leaderboard in batting average, hits, multi-hit games, runs scored, doubles and stolen bases.

Jose Reyes has been special for many years and is now just entering his prime. However, just as he's in the midst of his best season in the majors, he may also be nearing the end of his Mets career, as free agency is looming for Reyes after this season. Perhaps Sandy Alderson will find a few extra million dollars in Fred Wilpon's wallet at the end of the season to give to Reyes. Whether or not he accepts the offer is up to him.

However, regardless of what happens to Reyes in the next few months, let us not forget the dynamic player he has been for the Mets. As Reyes goes, so goes the team. If the Mets are involved in a late-inning rally, Reyes is usually involved. If the team needs a spark of life, Reyes will provide the charge.

Since the days of Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden, no homegrown player has provided as much excitement to the Mets' fanbase as Jose Reyes. We've watched him grow from an energetic teenager to a sometimes immature superstar to the leader he has become this year.

The team may have changed dramatically since Jose Reyes played his first game eight years ago today, and Reyes has changed quite a bit as well, but one thing hasn't changed. Jose Reyes plays the game to win. He plays the game to have fun. He plays the game, period. We should be thankful that we've been able to watch Reyes play for the past eight years. Talent like that doesn't come along very often.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Jason Bay, Benchwarmer

According to Adam Rubin, Jason Bay will not start in tonight's series finale against the Brewers and tomorrow's game against the Pirates. The decision was made by Terry Collins prior to tonight's game in an effort to give Bay time to regroup after his horrendous start. Jason Pridie will be taking over for Bay in left field until Collins sees fit to re-insert the former slugger into the lineup.

Bay is currently going through the longest slump of his career, not collecting a hit in his last 23 at-bats. As a result, his batting average has dropped to a Mario Mendoza-like .207. Since going 3-for-4 against the Washington Nationals on May 19, Bay has batted .161 with no extra-base hits and 15 strikeouts.

Although the temporary benching is for "at least two games", Bay is expected to be back in the lineup for Saturday's game in Pittsburgh against right-hander James McDonald. In four plate appearances against McDonald, Bay is 1-for-3 with a walk and an RBI.

It's clear that Jason Bay has been a shadow of his former self since coming back from the disabled list in late April. It's also clear that he has been hurting the team by not producing out of the cleanup spot. Although a trip to the minors helped established veterans Bobby Jones and Steve Trachsel salvage their careers with the Mets, a demotion was not in the cards for Bay, as Collins did not think that would be beneficial for the leftfielder.

Jason Bay is a nice guy and was a fine player for many years. Whether or not he can continue to be that fine player remains to be seen. For now, he'll be riding the pine for at least two games, hoping that when he does make his return to the starting lineup, he can bring the offensive skills with him that have been missing ever since he became a Met.

It's Deja Brew All Over Again

Last night, after struggling to find their offensive groove at Miller Park in Milwaukee, the Mets scored five runs in the eighth inning against Brewers' reliever Kameron Loe to turn a 2-1 deficit into a seemingly comfortable 6-2 lead. The key words are "seemingly" and "comfortable". Because if you've been following the Mets recently, the late innings have been anything but comfortable.

Let's look at the the Mets' last six losses. Methinks you'll be able to notice a pattern in these half-dozen defeats:

  • May 27: Mets lead 3-2 in the eighth inning; lose to Phillies, 6-4.
  • May 28: Mets lead 2-1 in the eighth inning; lose to Phillies, 5-2.
  • May 31: Mets lead 1-0 in the eighth inning; lose to Pirates, 5-1.
  • June 1: Mets lead 2-0 in the seventh inning; lose to Pirates, 9-3.
  • June 3: Mets lead 3-1 in the eighth inning; lose to Braves, 6-3.
  • June 8: Mets lead 6-2 in the eighth inning; lose to Brewers, 7-6.

The Mets haven't exactly been writing the book on how to hold late-inning leads, have they? In fact, the Mets haven't been able to hold on to leads, regardless of the inning, all season. In 18 of their 32 losses, the Mets were in front at some point. However, it's those late-inning losses that everyone seems to remember. Ready for more?

  • April 10: Mets lead 3-1 in the eighth inning; lose to Nationals in 11 innings, 7-3.
  • April 30: Mets lead 1-0 in the seventh inning; lose to Phillies, 2-1.
  • May 16: Mets lead 1-0 in the seventh inning; lose to Marlins in 11 innings, 2-1.
  • May 22: Mets lead 3-1 in the seventh inning; lose to Yankees, 9-3.

That's ten losses this season in which the Mets held the lead going into the seventh inning or later, or nearly one-third of their 32 losses. Had they held on to those ten late-inning leads, the Mets would be proud owners of a 39-22 record, which would give them the best record in all of baseball. Even if they had split those ten games, which would still allow for five blown late-inning leads, the Mets would have a 34-27 record and would find themselves in the thick of the National League playoff race. (The Milwaukee Brewers are currently leading the Wild Card race with a 35-27 record.)

But no, the Mets have not won any of those ten games and are now in a position that has become all too familiar to them, fourth place in the NL East with a 29-32 record.

Last night, two swings of the bat from Milwaukee's most famous duo since Laverne & Shirley (Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder) turned a four-run eighth-inning lead into their latest "what if?" loss. It's getting to the point where Lenny and Squiggy could probably lead a late-inning charge against the Mets.

Heck, Nyjer Morgan claimed he didn't even know that his ninth-inning double off Goose Gossage's less successful clone, Dale Thayer, was a walk-off hit. I guess Morgan has been spending too much time as his alter ego on Twitter, Tony Plush. Otherwise, he would have known that blowing late-inning leads has become commonplace for the Mets.

A certain pennant-winning manager for the Mets once said that it's never over 'til it's over. Perhaps the current Mets should heed the philosophical words of that wise man. If they don't do something soon, the 2011 season might be over before it's over.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Could Jose Reyes Follow In Willie McGee's Footsteps?

The year was 1990 and the world was a different place. The Mets said goodbye to Davey Johnson and Darryl Strawberry. The Yankees really did suck (and not just because Mets and Red Sox fans said so). Al Gore had not yet invented the internet. The Ramones were still together (and still breathing). And Jose Reyes was seven years old.

It was also a banner year for Willie McGee, who won his second National League batting title and played in the World Series with the Oakland A's. Yes, you read that correctly and no, you did not just enter a parallel universe where the A's played in the senior circuit.

So how in the world did Willie McGee become a batting champion in the National League while playing in the American League? Let me tell you a little story, and trust me, we'll get around to Jose Reyes faster than he can leg out a triple.

In 1990, Willie McGee was leading the National League in batting with a .335 average, but his performance was not helping his team, as the Cardinals were mired in last place in the NL East. Choosing to rebuild, St. Louis traded away the former NL MVP (1985) to the Oakland A's on August 29. However, since Willie McGee switched leagues in the deal, his American League numbers would not be combined with his National League numbers, meaning his NL batting mark of .335 would remain unchanged despite his .274 batting average with Oakland in 113 at-bats.

During his time in St. Louis, McGee made 542 plate appearances, or 40 more than the 502 required to qualify for the batting title. When the season ended, no National League player had been able to surpass McGee's .335 average (Dodgers first baseman Eddie Murray finished second with a .330 batting average and the Mets' Dave Magadan finished third at .328), so McGee was awarded the National League batting title, despite finishing the season in the American League. Eddie Murray won nothing but some lovely parting gifts despite leading the major leagues in batting, as his .330 mark was higher than McGee's combined .324 average with St. Louis and Oakland.

So why am I boring you with this history lesson and what does this have to do with the Mets?

Well, my fellow Mets fans, Jose Reyes is batting .337. That leads the National League entering tonight's game against the Brewers (Joey Votto is second with a .336 average). Jose Reyes' name is also being bandied about in trade rumor after trade rumor. You can probably guess where I'm going with this. What if Jose Reyes continues his hot hitting, ups his trade value, and gets dealt to an American League team at the trade deadline (July 31)?

Barring any rainouts, the Mets will be playing their 108th game on July 31. Jose Reyes has played in all but three of the Mets' 59 games. He has 265 plate appearances in those 56 games, an average of 4.73 PA per game. If Reyes plays in all 49 games left before the trade deadline, he would need 237 plate appearances (an average of 4.84 PA per game) to qualify for the National League batting title. So you see, it could happen.

Everybody clap your hands! (And while you're at it, don't trade Reyes.)

The Mets have never had a batting champion in their history. John Olerud came close in 1998, finishing second to Larry Walker. Cleon Jones and Dave Magadan also fell short, finishing third in 1969 and 1990, respectively. Could you imagine if Jose Reyes won the 2011 National League batting title after being traded to an American League team, a la Willie McGee over two decades ago? Stranger things have happened in Mets history, but this would probably be as strange as it gets.

Mets fans would have no problem with Jose Reyes becoming the team's first batting champion. But I'm sure they'd like to see him do it in a Mets uniform.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

If You're Not Booing Jason Bay Yet, Perhaps This Will Help

Jason Bay is being paid $66 million by the New York Mets to suck. Judging by the boos at Citi Field, he is earning every penny of it. But what are they booing exactly? Is it the lack of home runs by Bay after smashing 36 longballs for Boston in 2009? Is it the failure to drive in runs after recording four 100 RBI seasons in the five seasons prior to becoming a Met? Or is it just that Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo are no longer around, so someone's gotta get the boo treatment.

Well, my fellow Mets fans, I think it's a combination of all those things. Jason Bay has been a disappointment. He's barely been worth $66, let alone $66 million. So feel free to boo him if you choose to do so. If you still don't see why he should be booed, let me throw some numbers at you about Jason Bay that you might not have known.

There have been 96 everyday players (non-pitchers) in history to strike out at least 125 times as members of the Mets. Of those 96, only one of them did not register at least 500 career at-bats for the Mets. That player is Jason Bay (127 Ks in 482 at-bats).

This year, Jason Bay has a slugging percentage of .291 in 134 at-bats. To put that into perspective, Jason Isringhausen has a .299 slugging percentage in 97 career at-bats for the Mets. Sticking on the Jason vs. Jason theme, Bay has 10 RBI this season in those 134 at-bats. In 37 fewer career at-bats, Izzy has 11 RBI.

Jason Bay has 38 extra-base hits in his Mets career (482 at-bats), which means he collects an extra-base hit every 12.7 at-bats. Here are former Mets with similar numbers:

  • Victor Diaz: 39 XBH in 350 at-bats.
  • Tsuyoshi Shinjo: 38 XBH, 514 at-bats.
  • Luis Lopez: 37 XBH, 548 at-bats.
  • Desi Relaford: 35 XBH, 301 at-bats.
  • Marlon Anderson: 33 XBH, 446 at-bats.
  • Dave Gallagher: 33 XBH, 376 at-bats.
  • Eric Valent: 33 XBH, 313 at-bats.
  • Marv Throneberry: 31 XBH, 371 at-bats.
  • Tim Bogar: 30 XBH, 491 at-bats.
  • Chico Walker: 30 XBH, 440 at-bats.

None of those hitters would be considered a great, or even good hitter. Similarly, none of those hitters ever earned anything near $66 million or a comparable amount for the era in which they played.

Let's face it. Power hitters are going to suffer when they sign with or are traded to the Mets. Citi Field is the park where home runs go to die. However, the dimensions of the park should not do anything to a player's extra base-hit total or strikeout total. Apparently, Jason Bay never got that memo.

So if you still don't think Jason Bay should be booed at Citi Field, perhaps the reasons listed above might cause you to rethink your booing strategy. $66 million bought the Mets a plate at Jason Bay's all-you-can-K buffet. All you have to do is buy a ticket for far less than that to let Bay know that he hasn't been worth the price of a Happy Meal.

Terry > Jerry

Last night, the Mets scored five runs in the seventh inning to defeat Jair Jurrjens and the Atlanta Braves, 5-0. The big blow was provided by Jose Reyes, whose bases-loaded triple stretched a 1-0 lead to 4-0. Reyes later scored on a sacrifice fly by the current National League Rookie of the Month, Justin Turner.

Reyes has been the team's best hitter all season. He currently owns a nine-game hitting streak, batting .462 over the nine games (18-for-39). Over that stretch, Reyes is slugging .744 and has an otherwordly 1.231 OPS. Those numbers are more common for a middle-of-the-order hitter than a leadoff hitter.

So of course, during last night's post-game interview session, Terry Collins was asked if he'd consider moving Reyes down the batting order into the three-hole, especially since Reyes has been one of the team's top run producers, to which Collins responded,

"He's going to stay where he is. I don't think you ask those kind of players to do things they're not comfortable with."

That's the perfect response by a man who clearly knows how to get the best out of his players. Jose Reyes would not be a good third-place hitter, even with the injuries to David Wright and Ike Davis. The Mets have been there and done that with Reyes already.

Last year, Jerry Manuel (a.k.a. Dead Manuel Walking) attempted to bolster the offense by moving the speedy Reyes from the leadoff spot to the three-hole. In 20 games as the Mets' No. 3 hitter, Reyes was not exactly the answer, as his .207/.253/.280 line in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage were not exactly what the Mets wanted from that spot in the batting order. In fact, R.A. Dickey's offensive numbers (.255/.296/.294) were better in every category. Dickey even had a better eye at the plate than Reyes did as the No. 3 hitter, as the knuckler drew three walks, while striking out eight times last season. Reyes, on the other hand, walked once and whiffed 11 times in 20 games batting third.

Jose Reyes should not bat third. Ever. Jerry Manuel failed to see that and it showed in Reyes' performance on the field. Terry Collins knows how not to mess with a good thing. Perhaps that's why Terry has a job now and Jerry doesn't. When a player like Jose Reyes is on fire, you can't mess with a good thing. Jerry Manuel played with Reyes' fire and he got burned.